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Rabbit ancestor reveals ancient link between Asia and Europe

"These ancient animals help us to better understand the climatic and paleogeographic conditions of that period in time," said researcher Chiara Angelone.
By Brooks Hays   |   Jan. 26, 2016 at 2:50 PM

BARCELONA, Spain, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Amphilagus tomidai, a newly named mammalian species, lived in what is now Siberia some 14 million years ago. Researchers say the species is an ancestor of modern rabbits.

An ancient rabbit isn't necessarily groundbreaking, but this species is special. Amphilagus tomidai offers an important biogeographic link between East and West.

As detailed in the journal Historical Biology, genetic anlaysis proves the newly identified mammal is related to a family of rabbits thought to exist only in Europe. The link confirms that Europe and Asia were linked by a barrier-free land bridge during the Middle Miocene, allowing the propagation of species between the continents.

The Miocene, an era that began 23 million years ago and ended 5.3 million years ago, witnessed the disappearance of the Paratethys Sea, which once bisected Eurasia -- stretching from the northern Alps of southern Europe to the Aral Sea in western Asia.

"These ancient animals help us to better understand the climatic and paleogeographic conditions of that period in time," study co-author Chiara Angelone, a researcher at the Catalan Institute of Palaeontology Miquel Crusafont, said in a press release. "Some discoveries add new insight into what we already know. Others, such as this one, uncover remarkable stories."

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